Irresponsibility at its height! How else would one describe Harold Camping and his team’s prediction that the world would come to an “end” on 21 May 2011?
Camping believed that the Bible gave him enough clues to “calculate” the Day of Judgment. Having arrived at a “definite” date, he did not leave any stone unturned while trying to warn the world of impending judgment and catastrophe. His team spent millions of dollars to spread his erroneous conviction through radio, television, hoardings, website, etc.
Most Evangelical groups brushed him aside as another embarrassment to Christianity. Many were terrified and confused. A 14-year-old girl from Russia was literally scared to death. She committed suicide on May 21 fearing that she was not righteous enough to be “raptured”; she was scared of facing God’s wrath on the unrighteous.
Abetting suicide is considered a crime in many countries. Camping could be charged for his irresponsible teachings and instigations. He, however, has denied such charges. He said, “I don’t have any responsibility. I can’t take responsibility for anybody’s life. I’m only teaching the Bible.” Thus, according to his own admission, he is an irresponsible teacher.
This wasn’t the first time he predicted the “end of the world.” Seventeen years ago, he had predicated the end in vain. Instead of apologizing for a second “miscalculation,” Camping has gone ahead with predicting the “end” a third time. This time, he has chosen October 21, 2011.
Many Christians who read Camping’s predictions laughed it off or pitied this mistaken elderly zealot. What we don’t often realize is that most Evangelicals make themselves as ridiculous as Camping by ignoring the plain teachings of Scriptures. We may not be predicting the date and time of the “Second Coming” of Jesus Christ or that of the Day of Judgment. We are too clever for that. Instead, we ignore biblical words and phrases that clearly indicate time.
Some of our doctrinal constructs about the “Second Coming” and related events are based on guesses and assumptions. I shall cite a few examples.
Most Evangelicals believe in a pre-millennial pre-tribulation rapture. That is, they believe that the Church will be taken up and away from this world before the “man of lawlessness” appears. Yet, the Bible clearly says that the so called “rapture” – described unmistakably as “the day of Lord” (2 Thess 2:2) and as “the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering to him” (2 Thess 2:1) – will not> take place before the blasphemous “man of lawlessness” appears! (see 2 Thess 2:3). So, the arrival of the so-called “antichrist” and an apostasy must precede the “rapture.”
The pre-millennialists refuse to acknowledge this. How can they? This plain verse doesn’t fit into their interpretation of Revelation! For they see the events in Revelation as a series of events in time—one following the other. On top of that, they assume that John’s ascent into heaven (in Rev 4:1-2) represents the “rapture” of the church. According to this view, they argue that the “rapture” should happen before the catastrophes mentioned in Revelation (from Chapter 6 onwards). No one stops to ask, “Why do we confuse John’s ascent in Rev 4:1-2 with the Church’s rapture?” The mention of a victorious Church that overcomes the devil and the troubles of tribulation (in Rev 12:11) doesn’t jolt pre-tribulationists from their views.
And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and
strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for
the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before
our God day and night.
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. – Rev 12:10-11 NIV
How then do the pre-tribulationists explain verses such as these? They suggest that victorious Christians in Rev 12:11 are people who repented after they were “Left Behind”; they are the ones who utilized a second chance to believe in Jesus Christ! This view was further popularised recently through the “Left Behind” series of books and movies.
A second chance for people left behind after the Rapture? The Bible offers no such relief. Yet, that doesn’t prevent these “strong” Evangelicals and Pentecostals from believing it. Take a look at what Peter says in the Scriptures (2 Peter 3:9). Peter and all his fellow apostles believed that the Lord would return in their lifetime. When some skeptics questioned them about the delay in the “Second Coming” of Jesus Christ, Peter explained that the delay was caused due to God’s mercy. God did not want anyone to perish. So, God was waiting patiently “for all to come to repentance.” The question is, why should God wait patiently to give everyone a chance to repent if He was planning to give everyone a “second chance”? Peter also wrote, “the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise.”
Jesus’ express teaching regarding His “Second Coming” are often overlooked by most Evangelicals just as Camping overlooked Jesus’ warning against setting a date and time for His “Second Coming.” Take for example Jesus’ prediction of His “Second Coming” in Matthew 16:27-28.
“For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
Any sensible reader will understand this passage as Jesus’ promise to return in glory during the lifetime of at least “some” of his apostles. This plain sense evades the majority of Evangelicals who are now condemning Camping’s prediction of Judgment Day. They explain away this passage in a very strange way. They say that this “Second Coming” was indeed fulfilled in the following chapter (Matt 17) on the Mount of transfiguration! If so, why then are they waiting for a future “Second Coming” and “rapture?”
How can the transfiguration be the “Second Coming?” Jesus never went anywhere to “come back” a second time on the Mount of Transfiguration! Did Jesus repay every man according to His deeds on the Mount of Transfiguration? Such inconvenient questions are not encouraged among the pre-millennialists and pre-tribulationists.
There are numerous such fanciful teachings that are popular among evangelicals. Just because these evangelicals do not predict a day and an hour for their rapture, they need not think that they are any better than Camping and his folks.